ERNIE WATTS — Ernie Watts Quartet : Home Light (review)

ERNIE WATTS — Ernie Watts Quartet : Home Light album cover Album · 2018 · Hard Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
kev rowland
Double Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Ernie Watts is back with the latest album with his quartet, which has had the same line-up of Christof Saenger (piano), Rudi Engel (bass) and Heinrich Koebberling (drums) since 2011’s ‘Oasis’, although Watts originally formed the quartet in 2004. But his own history goes back much farther than that, as he originally won a won a Downbeat Scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. While he was there, Gene Quill quit Buddy Rich's Big Band, and trombonist Phil Wilson (a professor at Berklee), was asked to recommend a student as temporary replacement. A young Ernie Watts was referred, and “temporarily” stayed with Rich from 1966-1968 and toured the world, and since then has been a professional musician who works in popular music (Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan etc.), TV and film (“Ghostbusters” among literally hundreds of others), but whose first love is jazz, ever since he was blown away by Coltrane on what was then the brand-new Miles Davis album ‘Kind of Blue’.

When someone has been playing music for as many years as Watts, it is of course no surprise that he has an amazing tone, and when four top musicians have been together for this long, they all know each other incredibly well and bounce ideas off each other with panache. Watts’ sax is often the lead melody instrument, but not always, and the feeling is that this really is a band as opposed to one person with a bunch of supporters behind him. It is fresh, it is exciting, powerful, uplifting music which also includes a sense of fun and joy. It is bright, full of life and light: the sun breaking through on the horizon is a perfectly apt photo for the cover as it ties in directly with this. The band work through different styles from bebop and gospel through to the likes of swing, always with aplomb, care and direction. Watts will even sit back out of the music for complete sections to allow the others to take the lead, knowing he doesn’t always have to be in the thick of it for magic to happen. Ian Patterson at All About Jazz has been quoted as saying about Watts “Not just at the top of his game, but at the top of THE game”, and here is yet another example of why that is the case.

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